By Carolyn Wysinger
(Editor’s Note: While “Stirring the Pot” columnist Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig takes a break this week, shades Magazine contributor Carolyn Wysinger steps in with her own mix of thought-provoking reflections on life.)
Over the last few months, there have been many items in our local news that have shifted opinions and opened up dialogues about gender, safety and community. What interested me most has been the deep chasm that has been exposed between members of the community and how far we still have to go in mending relationships and families in order to build strong neighborhoods and cities.
Growing up in Richmond, Calif., I never considered the world around me to be a conservative space. We were only steps from eclectic cities like Berkeley, while holding a diverse ethnic history all our own. Oakland has long been the home of some of the foremost black artists, activists and philosophers yet in many ways, both of these large municipalities have been greatly defined by what someone once coined “a large town with a small town mentality.”
That small town mentality comes with many pros and cons.
One of the pros is our concern for each other – how we prioritize the safety of every member of this family of community. But some of the cons have included conservative small town views on things such as same sex marriage and gender justice.
Being that the East Bay is still a community that is very much rooted in its faith and religious institutions, one of the large questions that I have encountered has been from friends and family. They tend to get stuck on how can they support same sex equality or gender binaries outside of traditional male and female roles if they are being taught in church that it is against their spiritual beliefs.
My answer? A simple question I heard a minister once ask: “What does love demand?”
In his 1978 speech “That’s What America Is,” Harvey Milk said, “Gay brothers and sisters … you must come out. Come out … to your parents … come out to your relatives … come out to your friends … come out to your neighbors … but once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions.”
Milk was speaking specifically to the concept of love. Letting your love ones and friends that you share similar values and beliefs with know that you are indeed that same sex loving person or transgender person or non-gender conforming person they’ve always known and loved. Challenge their beliefs on who they can accept and love by letting them know that they already love YOU.
Love is patient, love is kind … it keeps no record of wrongs and it always protects, always trusts always hopes, always preserves. This is all that love demands.
Let us all get back to the root of love to build the support system that will strengthen our entire community.